Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sierra Leone's 'tinderbox'

The UK Independent has a story on how the country, once so hopeful after the ending of a brutal civil war, is now 'like a tinderbox.'

Elections scheduled for the middle of next year but the incumbent president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah can not stand again. The vice-president will be his party's standard bearer and expected to win easily. But The Independent worringly reports that possibility of a coup was raised in newspapers last week when a young army private, Abdul Sesay, was arrested following the theft of an arms cache. Sesay, somehow, later escaped.

The paper also cites the trial of Sam Hinga Norman as another potential flashpoint. The former leader of the Kamajor militia is admired by some for the groups role in fighting the the infamous rebel RUF fanatics during the 1990s. The UN Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in the capital Freetown, has indicted Norman for war crimes.

And ending a war is easier than rebuilding a shattered country.

The last war was not just about control of resources. The long-standing one-party state fell apart, the education system collapsed and agricultural output fell dramatically. Radicalised young men, angry at the lack of opportunities, became easy prey for rebel leaders such as [former Liberian dictator and indicted war criminal] Taylor who persuaded them to take up arms.

In many ways, a brutal civil war like Sierra Leone's is like a national rape. The agony lasts well beyond the end of the actual violent acts. The emotional trauma far outlasts the disappearance of any physical effects. And the perpetrators too often go unpunished.

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